Judge Rules Lake Elsinore Memorial Unconstitutional

Remember the lawsuit filed over a war memorial in Lake Elsinore, California that shows a solder kneeling before a cross? The judge has ruled that the design is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The ruling was based on the Lemon test and the judge concluded that the monument violates the first two prongs of that test.

When the government uses religious symbols or requires religious instruction, the Supreme Court has placed the burden on the government to articulate a predominantly secular purpose for using the symbols under Lemon.

In the instant case, there is no evidence as to why the City of Lake Elsinore initially chose to include a Latin cross on their veterans’ memorial. Although the cross serves as a tombstone, a religious symbol is not necessary to mark a grave, and like Eckels and Jewish War Veterans, the use of a religious symbol where one is not necessary evidences a religious purpose. However, even assuming Lake Elsinore originally included the cross for a secular purpose, the Court must examine whether the relevant government decision makers abandoned their neutrality in adopting the cross design, and acted with the “intent of promoting a particular point of view in religious matters.”

Here, there is strong evidence that at the October 23, 2012 Lake Elsinore City Council meeting, multiple City Council members expressed a predominantly religious interest in keeping the cross on the memorial. Responding to members of the community who expressed legal concerns about including the cross, Mayor Pro Tem Hickman said “I feel sorry for us that we as Christians cannot show the cross because of the First Amendment. Okay. It really is a shame that our society, to me, is leaning that way.” Later in resisting a motion to continue a vote on the memorial until other designs were considered, Mr. Hickman added: “I’m not going to sit here and wait for people to denigrate my beliefs, okay. . . . Let them just present their designs. We don’t have to change it.” Council Member Melendez added that “it is a sad reflection on our society when as a Christian nation, one of the principles upon which we were founded is something that we are forced to hide.” And in response to the motion to continue the vote, she later stated: “You know what . . . I think at some point you have to take a stand. I’m sorry. I just think you do. And I’m going to make a substitute motion that we approve this project as is and where it is.”

At the November 13, 2012 council meeting, Council Member Magee also expressed an intent to keep the cross because of its religious symbolism. He stated immediately prior to casting his vote to approve the memorial that what “got to [him] the most” was the public testimony of Deborah Rodriguez, who spoke about “her cross and her time served [in the military] and her son.” Ms. Rodriguez had told the Council that “the cross” made her proud to serve her country, “which was founded on Christianity,” and that “God is the cross for me. It could be other things to other people.”…

Although the board members did not originally state why they approved the monument, two of the three board members later defended the monument for religious reasons, making statements such as: “That’s what we’re trying to live by, that right there.” “The good Lord died for me. I can stand for him. And I’m going to.” “I’m a Christian and I believe in this. I think it’s a benefit to the community.” “I won’t say that we won’t take it down, but it will be after the fight.” The court in Green held that the reasonable observer would have been aware of these comments and would have concluded that the county board’s enactment of the monument reflected an endorsement of religion.

Here, as in Green, the public comments show that for a majority of the five-person Lake Elsinore City Council, the purpose for including the cross on the memorial was to symbolize their religion and the Country’s status as a Christian nation. Such comments reflect an abandonment of government neutrality in adopting the cross design, and an “intent of promoting a particular point of view in religious matters.”

And once again we find local elected officials getting their actions struck down because they want to be viewed by the voters as standing up for God. Their vanity and self-interest drives them to be honest about their motivations and that always works in our favor. You can read the full ruling here.

Isn't that a law prohibiting the defamation of maple syrup?

USCIRF Releases Report on Blasphemy Laws
Pakistan: one of America's greatest allies since the days of Ronald Reagan and the founding of al-Qaeda.

USCIRF Releases Report on Blasphemy Laws
Follow Us!
POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John Pieret

    The people of Lake Elsinore are the winners here … it was just about the ugliest “monument” I’ve ever seen.

    Their vanity and self-interest drives them to be honest about their motivations and that always works in our favor.

    That is just a version of Lenny Flank’s long-standing Law about creationists:

    The ability of a creationist to shut his mouth about creationism’s religious motive is inversely proportional to the legal necessity of their doing so … I.e., whenever they go to court, they are invariably their own worst enemies, and proudly shoot themselves in the head.

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DebunkCreation/conversations/topics/134625

  • raven

    because they want to be viewed by the voters as standing up for God.

    Because god, the all powerful creator and ruler of the universe can’t stand up for himself. Their god is either sick, dead, doesn’t care anymore, or on Kpax IV communing with his new favorites, the giant squids swimming in methane seas.

    it was just about the ugliest “monument” I’ve ever seen.

    Yeah it was. Hitchens: Religion poisons everything. Including people’s artistic sensibilities.

    Have the fundies ever produced an artist of note? Best I can remember is the painter of light guy, Thomas Kincaide, who was famous for mundane schlock. And died of drugs and alcohol in his girlfriend’s house.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    “Mayor” Pro Tem Hickman, “Council Member” Melendez, and “Council Member” Magee are all atheist sleeper agents. This was a classic false flag operation!!!

  • Alverant

    Sounds like the council proverbially hung itself by its own words. What a bunch of liars. I have never heard of anyone justifying the claim that this country was founded on christian principles. They just make the claim as if its obvious and no one has the right to question them on that.

  • eamick

    I feel sorriest for the city solicitors (or whatever the title might be). They find themselves arguing a case they know they aren’t going to win for clients who have publicly sabotaged their already feeble case on the record.

  • machintelligence

    Don’t feel too bad for city attorneys, they get paid whether they win or lose. Theirs is not to question why, theirs is just to sue the guy. (With apologies to the Light Brigade.)

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Thanks for the crosses and all, I don’t need “defending”. That’s part of what makes me God.

     

    Hugs and Kisses,

    Jesus

     

    PS Why the cross? it ghastly. You do know I was tortured on a cross, right? It’s a bit like celebrating Lincoln by building giant derringer monuments everywhere.

  • John Pieret

    Modus, have you built an extention on your house to hold all those internets?

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @Modusoperandi #7 If Jesus had lived in 1940s America, people would be venerating the electric chair.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    John Pieret, better, I built my house out of internets. Getting from the second to ground floor takes no effort at all. Getting back up, however, is more problematic. It’s a series of tubes, you see, like Snakes & Ladders, but the snakes are tubes and also there are no ladders.

  • had3

    Try laters instead, that way you can put it off.

  • Chiroptera

    What if a non-Christian has a sincerely held religious belief not to obey the laws against vandalizing public monuments with religious symbols?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Chiroptera “What if a non-Christian has a sincerely held religious belief not to obey the laws against vandalizing public monuments with religious symbols?”

    Alternately:

    (/me runs into megachurch coffee shop, tips over banking machine) “This is a house of prayer!”

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @6. machintelligence :

    Don’t feel too bad for city attorneys, they get paid whether they win or lose. Theirs is not to question why, theirs is just to sue the guy. (With apologies to the Light Brigade.)

    Don’t you mean apologies to Rudyard Kipling there?

  • abb3w

    Additional detail from other coverage, emphasis added: “The Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense group dedicated to the defense of religious expression, represented the city for free on the case.

    That can’t have helped to convince the judge that the memorial wasn’t meant to be religious.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    abb3w, “Pacific Justice” was also the CBC’s late-night spin-off of The Beachcombers, too. It got pretty blue. True story.

  • dingojack

    Modus – don’t tell me, every time you wanted to get into the bathroom you got an error 404.

    Stevo – I think this is what machintelligence was trying to reference.

    Dingo

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ Yes. That’s the one. D’oh! Always thought that was Kipling poem – sorry Tennyson.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    I am appalled that people are on this thread making light of what is an extremely serious situation re: Religious Freedumb for teh poor, beleaugered KKKristianists (who MADE MurKKKa what it is and constitute over 80% if its residunces) and their omniscient–but, apparently, omnmissing–GOD. It’s not funny, people!

    ngggggggggggggggg, nggggggggg, snarflechort…

    Okay, I’m wrong, it’s fucking hilarious.